Saturday, September 29, 2012

Faces of the Civil War: The re-enactors

REBEL: Major Lee Jones, Meriden, Conn.
YANKEE: Marshall Cain,  Athol, Mass.
REBEL: Nathan Porteus, Bolton, Conn.
REBEL: Emile Roux,  Manchester, Conn.
REBEL: Colonel Paul Gliniewicz, Abington, Mass.
REBEL: Captain Tim Perkins, Boxford, Mass.
YANKEE: Peter Hershonik, Coventry, Conn.
REBEL: Paul Szafik,  Troy, N.H.
REBEL: Captain Lance Easterling, Norman, Okla.

They came from as far away as Oklahoma and Michigan to Wickham Park in Manchester, Conn., this weekend, some wearing patchwork rebel uniforms and others donning woolen Yankee blue. Not even a hard rain and an overnight's stay in their small, white tents could spoil Saturday's event for many of these re-enactors, who have a unique passion for the Civil War.

Steve DelSignore of  Middleboro, Mass., who portrays a Union chaplain, had a Civil War-themed wedding.

Tim Perkins of Boxford, Mass., masterfully stayed in character -- in Saturday's case as a Southern captain -- and refused to call the Battle of Antietam by its Northern name. "It's the Battle of Sharpsburg, sir." he told me.

REBEL: Greg Frank of South Windsor, Conn. He is a member 
of Company H of the 1st Maryland.

Another New Englander, Paul Szafik of Troy, N.H.., also portrayed a Rebel, something I found odd. "Well," he quipped, "I originally was from southern New Hampshire."

And Nathan Porteus, a boy-soldier from Bolton, Conn., also stayed in character, snapping to attention as an officer quizzed him as I approached the muddy rebel camp. "Is everything OK here, trooper?" he asked. "Yes, sir," barked Porteus, who portrays a 35th Virginia soldier.

Yes, Civil War re-enactors are a very different breed. A little nutty, perhaps, but in a very good sort of way.

On Saturday afternoon, more than 200 of them re-fought the Battle of Antietam at Wickham Park. Flour was stuffed in cannons to make the smoke a little more dense when they were fired. Two Rebels who skedaddled for the rear were shot in the back by comrades, much to the delight of  many in the crowd of about 1,000 people. And in a safety-first measure, most re-enactors aimed their blank rounds extraordinarily high, something most of their counterparts 150 years ago never would have considered with their live rounds.

Unlike the real thing, the casualties thankfully were quite low, although one Union soldier had a very nasty head wound covered by a faux bloody patch. (Nice job there, soldier.) Predictably, the men and boys in blue once again chased the Rebels from Bloody Lane after enfilading their line.

Afterward, a Union re-enactor and I discussed the battle and today's fascination with the Civil War.

"I wonder what soldiers from 150 years ago would think of all this today," he said as he gestured toward a row of posters planted in the grass of Connecticut troops who fought at Antietam.

I think they would be honored.

Clockwise from left: REBEL: Charlie Zelck of Ludlow, Mass.; 
YANKEE: Chaplain Steve DelSignore of Middleboro, Mass.; 
YANKEES: Carolyn Ivanoff and Joe Adileito of Seymour, Conn.

YANKEE: Dr. Mick Bedard, West Hartford, Conn.

HARTFORD COURANT ON ANTIETAM: Check out Jesse Leavenworth's story on soldiers' letters.
LIKE THIS BLOG ON FACEBOOK! It could change your life! (Or maybe not.)
FACES OF THE CIVIL WAR: Stories and photos of common soldiers who served during the war.
MORE ON 16TH CONNECTICUT SOLDIERS: Tales of the men in the hard-luck regiment.
MORE ON ANTIETAM: Read my extensive thread on the battle and the men who fought in it.

3 comments:

Guy said...

very nice post John Boy. And did you do these portraits your ownself?

John Banks said...

Yah, all mine. Should have had the chaplain and the Union guy at the top looking away from the camera too. Love the re-enactors. All passionate about the Civil War.

Anonymous said...

John: What exquisite work! I think you enjoyed the events at Wickam Park as much as I did. Keep up the excellent work, preserving each soldiers' story.
~ Tina Panik